Personal and political

May 27, 2014

That Kim Dotcom doesn’t like Prime Minister John Key should have been obvious to anyone who’s taken even a cursory interest in the news.

But yesterday’s testimony by Rodney MP Mark Mitchell, a witness for the defence in the case against John Banks, shows something beyond dislike that appears to be both personal and political:

Kim Dotcom vowed to “destroy” John Banks and Prime Minister John Key, MP Mark Mitchell has told the High Court in Auckland.

Mitchell, the National MP for Rodney, today gave evidence for the defence at ACT MP Banks’ trial for filing a false electoral return.

Mitchell said he had met Dotcom at a barbecue in his electorate where the internet entrepreneur was “agitated” about the case to extradite Dotcom to the US on criminal copyright charges.

He said Dotcom told him: “I’m going to destroy John Key, I’m going to take down John Banks, I’m going to take down the Government.”

Mitchell’s other evidence was suppressed. . .

Dotcom ought to be very grateful he’s in New Zealand which shows a great deal more respect for the law and democracy than he appears to.

In many other countries that sort of tirade against a Prime Minister and MP would result in a charge of treason and in some they wouldn’t bother with such niceties as a fair trial before reaching a verdict.


Mr Fines

February 2, 2014

Consequences for people who ignore reparation payments or fines for traffic offences are going to be tougher from next month:

People with unpaid fines or reparation for traffic-related offences could find themselves barred from driving under powerful new sanctions which come into effect this month, Courts Minister Chester Borrows says.

From Monday 17 February ‘Driver Licence Stop Orders’ (DLSOs) can be imposed on anyone who fails to pay traffic-related fines imposed on them by a Court, Police or a local government authority – or a reparation order imposed on them by a Court – for a traffic-related offence.

Mr Borrows says DLSOs are a powerful new sanction, which will initially be targeted at repeat offenders who’ve racked up big overdue debts.

“There are around 136,000 people who between them owe $48 million in traffic related fines and are making no attempt to pay,” Mr Borrows says.

“A lot of them have chosen to ignore repeated reminders and if they remain uncooperative they’ll pay for it with their driver licence.

“We will focus initially on the worst offenders, but anyone with an overdue fine should seize this opportunity to contact the Ministry of Justice and make a payment arrangement if they wish to hold on to their licence.”

The Ministry of Justice, which will hand out the new sanction, will start by giving people with large amounts owing 14 days’ notice to either pay up or set up a payment plan.  They’ll get one more reminder, and if they’re not compliant a bailiff will be sent to seize their driver licence.

Their licences will remain suspended until the fine is paid in full, or payment arrangements are in place.  And if they’re caught driving while their licence is suspended they could be prosecuted, and have the vehicle they were driving seized for 28 days.

“Of course the aim here isn’t to suspend lots of driver licences,” Mr Borrows says.

“The aim is to get people who’ve been ignoring the authority of law to take things seriously, and to pay their traffic-related fines.

“We’ve made big inroads in recent years in getting people to pay fines – thanks to sanctions such as the powers to seize property, stop people from travelling overseas, stop people making purchases on credit, and directly deducting money from wages. 

“Those measures have seen the total level of unpaid fines and reparation fall by nearly a quarter of a billion dollars since 2009.  But that still leaves $554.4 million in unpaid fines – the vast majority of offenders (96%) owing money for vehicle-related offences.  In that context, the ability to bar people from driving is a powerful new tool to enforce penalties, because driving matters to most people with fines.”

A new television, radio and online advertising campaign will launch on Sunday 2 February, letting people know about DLSOs and other enforcement powers, and encouraging those with unpaid traffic fines or reparation to arrange payment.


What’s news?

December 2, 2013

Cameron Slater who runs Whaleoil has been ordered by a judge to reveal his sources because his blog “isn’t a news medium”.

But media law expert says he has a good case to appeal.

. . . Media lawyer Steven Price says he appears to have a good case because the act defines a news medium as one that disseminates news, which he says Whale Oil does.

And he said, a recent Law Commission report talks about bloggers being important to free speech.

A paper on media law at university while studying journalism more than three decades ago doesn’t make me a media law expert.

But I went to the dictionary and found the definition of news:newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events.

Whale Oil breaks a lot of stories which appears to fit that definition.

 


Wrongeds’ rights should trump wrong doer’s

September 7, 2013

Protecting victims and keeping their identities secret is often used as the reason for suppressing the names of criminals.

But what happens if the victims don’t want the name suppressed, even if it means disclosing who they are?

Two Christchurch women who were sexually abused as children will next week go to court and fight to have their name suppression lifted.

The sisters believe their abuser is using suppression orders to protect himself.

Nearly two decades after he was convicted and four decades after the abuse the women – now grandmothers at 48 and 52 – are going back to court to try and have their own name suppression lifted in the hope it’ll help expose him.

They believe he’s using the suppression to protect himself and want to warn parents.

“I could basically be arrested if I was to speak my name out, that’s how dumb it is,” one of the women says.

Both were shocked when news broke he was taking the Sensible Sentencing Trust to court for naming and shaming him on its offender website.

The director of human rights proceedings is now taking action in the Human Rights Review Tribunal on the man’s behalf, funded by the taxpayer, for the alleged privacy breach. . .

I don’t know what the law says but if it doesn’t allow the victims to be identified when they want to be, it should be changed.

Suppression in this case appears to be adding insult to the injury they received.

They are the wronged not the wrong-doers and if there is a conflict between their rights and those of the offender, theirs should trump his.


Pork Industry stops raw imports

June 13, 2013

The Pork Industry Board has managed to get biosecurity clearance for raw pork revoked until the appeal in the Supreme Court is determined:

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW ZEALAND
SC 36/2013
[2013] NZSC 58

BETWEEN THE NEW ZEALAND PORK INDUSTRY BOARD
Appellant
AND THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE MINISTRY FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRIES
First Respondent
AND THE CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER AND BIOSECURITY NEW ZEALAND
Second Respondents

[...]

JUDGMENT OF THE COURT

The order made on 31 May 2013 is revoked and in its place there is an order as follows:

The Ministry for Primary Industries, and any inspector acting on its behalf, is restrained from granting biosecurity clearances under ss 26–28 of the Biosecurity Act 1993 for any consumer ready cuts of raw pork product that may now be imported as a result of the Director-General’s decision to issue the following new import health standards:

• Import Health Standard for Pig Meat and Pig Meat Products for Human Consumption from the European Union, MEAPORIC.EU dated 18 March 2011 (with the exception of products from Sweden and Finland).

• Import Health Standard for Pig Meat and Pig Meat Products for Human Consumption from the Sonora State of Mexico, MEAPORIC.MEX dated 18 March 2011.
• Import Health Standard for Pig Meat and Pig Meat Products for Human Consumption from Canada and/or the United States of America, MEAPORIC.NAM dated 18 March 2011.

This order remains in force pending determination of the present appeal or further order of the Court.

The board has been fighting the imports on the grounds that the risk of importing disease which could threaten locally raised pigs is too great.


“Australian” not racist slur – court

March 13, 2013

An English court has found it’s not racist to call a Kiwi Australian.

Petra Mills, 31, was witnessed by police officers calling her neighbour Chelsea O’Reilly – a British/New Zealand national – a ‘stupid fat Australian’ during a drunken tirade at her former home in Macclesfield.

Macclesfield magistrates found her guilty of racially aggravated public disorder and assaulting a police officer in November last year.

Ms O’Reilly claimed that Czech-born Ms Mills had used the term ‘Australian’ offensively as she knew she was from neighbouring New Zealand.

But Chester Crown Court overturned the public disorder charge after ruling the use of the word ‘Australian’ could not be considered racist.. . .

I understand why Australian couldn’t be considered racist, but why was the injured party more concerned about the slur on her nationality than her intelligence and appearance?


No remorse

February 8, 2013

Lucy Lawless has declared her sentence for boarding a drilling ship a total victory.

She shows no remorse.

Perhaps the $650 fine and 120 hours community service, which is a pretty light sentence, just reinforces her apparent conviction that doing wrong is justified if you think you’re Regard regardless of the risks and costs to others.


Water wrongs

October 23, 2012

At 10 this morning the High Court will hear the Maori Council’s pleas for an injunction against the government’s plans to sell a minority share in Mighty River Power.

Is  this motivated by:

A) a principled belief that Maori own water.

B) politics.

C) the hope of more money for Maori.

D) the certainty of more money for lawyers.

E) ?


Shanghai Pengxin has nous to run farms – court

August 8, 2012

The Court of Appeal is satisfied that Shanghai Pengxin has the nous to run what were the Crafar farms.

The Court of Appeal has turned down a bid by merchant banker Michael Fay and two Maori trusts to stop the sale of 16 Central North Island farms, saying it was satisfied with the general business acumen and experience of the Chinese buyer.

Judges Mark O’Regan, Terence Arnold and Douglas White dismissed the judicial review, saying Jiang Zhaobai’s ability to bring himself from humble beginnings to become “a person of some stature in the Chinese commercial world,” would satisfy the minister making the decision in approving the sale of the Crafar family farms.

“The information provided to the ministers was sufficient to enable them to determine that he and the other controlling individuals had generic business skills and acumen relevant to the Crafar farms investment,” Judge Arnold said in delivering the judgment.

“We see nothing in the language, taken in context, to indicate that Parliament had in mind that an investor must have any particular combination of the requisite skills and experience,” the judgment said.

Agri-business experience was only one factor which needed to be taken into consideration.

 “While apparently important, it did not lead to a conclusion that was insupportable or unreasonable in the absence of that experience.”

The judges said even if the ministers erred in accepting Pengxin’s agribusiness investments, “it is unlikely that we would have exercised our discretion to grant a remedy.”

That’s because the ministers decided the foreign investment would have a substantial benefit to New Zealand, the deal hasn’t been settled and creditors are still waiting on repayments, and that the farms are being operated by the receiver in a manner than presumably “involves minimal further investment.”

Those who oppose the purchase forget about the creditors who are owed millions of dollars. The higher the purchase price, the more the creditors will recover.

I don’t think the state should be farming but Landcorp farms are generally well managed. Their experience and Shanghai Pengxin’s money should be good for the farms and the stringent conditions imposed by the Overseas Investment Office will result in benefits for the country too.


Court via Skype

August 6, 2012

Courts Minister Chester Borrows has announced Oamaru will be the first place in New Zealand to trail Skype in Family Court hearings.

Oamaru has been without a permanent courthouse since November when the building was deemed an earthquake risk, and Mr  Borrows said while temporary alternative locations were being  sought, audio visual technology would be trialled with a sitting Family Court judge on August 14.   

Existing audio visual platforms, such as Skype, were reliable and efficient enough for use in court, he said, adding that the idea also had backing from legal professionals in the town.   

 Following the trial run, a larger six-month trial, which would take place in Family Court proceedings from Oamaru south, would occur in September, Mr Borrows said.

This will save time and money for lawyers and their clients.

Skype works well for interviews and meetings, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work as well for court.


Directors and investors beware

March 30, 2012

It will be cold comfort to the people who lost fortunes in Lombard Finance that Sir Douglas Graham also lost a large amount – a couple of million dollars.

The sentence of fines and community service handed down to him and other directors won’t help those who lost money either.

But it is a warning to other directors of their responsibilities and to investors that there’s a correlation between risk and return, no matter who’s running the company.


Court of new beginnings reduces reoffending by 60%

January 14, 2012

Statistic of the day:

Mr Coster says 80% of daylight anti-social behaviour in the city is caused by just 30 people.

But the Special Circumstances Court, also known as the Court of New Beginnings, was established in 2010 its programme to rehabilitate and support homeless people caught in a cycle of low-level offending, has resulted in 60% reduction in reoffending.

That’s good for them and good for society.


Desperation or stupidity?

October 18, 2011

Is this desperation or stupidity?

A Queenstown mother has admitted making calls claiming to be a sexual health worker in a bid to damage the reputation of a teenage girl who was a rival to her daughter as both had applied to study at two Dunedin high schools. 

The woman has interim name suppression, which isn’t usually very effective in small towns where the grapevine is so efficient. But this is a case when I think suppression is justified, not for the defendent’s sake but that of her daughter.

People taking extreme steps to ensure their children get into a school didn’t used to be a problem in the provinces.

Increased zoning and concern over standards at some state schools could change that and influence property values. But hopefully it won’t prompt any more of the strange behaviour which has led to this court case.


Speaker refers Leigh case to Privileges Committee

September 27, 2011

Speaker Lockwood Smith has referred the Erin Leigh case to the Privileges Committee.

The Supreme court ruled that advice from officials to ministers was not covered by absolute privilege, Dr Smith said the issue raised serious matters which he would refer to the privileges committee for consideration.

The court ruling allowed Ms Leigh to sue for defamation. That doesn’t mean she was defamed but it leaves her free to take a case but unfortunately the cost of doing that has stopped her taking the matter any further.

I hope the Privileges Committee not only looks at the implications of the ruling but at the behaviour of the MPs and state servants which prompted the case.

A report on the court decision is here.

Kiwiblog has a Q&A from Ms Leigh.

Duncan Garner says she deserves an apology, and a payout to not only cover costs, but  to reflect damages.


Sex by judicial decree no joke

September 6, 2011

The story of a woman successfully suing her ex-husband because his libido was too low for her liking will probably be treated as a joke.

It’s not funny when you go beyond the headline:

But the strains of work and illness prevented Jean-Louis from fulfilling his matrimonial duties, his advocate pleaded.

Announcing her decision the judge quoted the French civil and penal code, which requires both parties in a marriage to respect ‘lifelong community’ requiring them by law to have sexual relations.

Sex by judicial decree isn’t funny.

It probably would be even less likely to be regarded as amusing  if it was the man who complained about the woman but it’s no more a joke because it was the husband’s low libido which prompted the case rather than the wife’s.

Non-consensual sex is abuse regardless of who’s demanding and who’s reluctant.

A difference in libido would cause problems in a relationship but they would be best sorted out by counselling rather than a court.


Famous for being not well known

January 20, 2011

When someone whispered, via email, who the celebrity seeking name suppression after his arrest for disorderly behaviour was I recognised the name but couldn’t place it.

I’m in good company. The judge who heard an application for continued suppression said he didn’t know who the bloke was either.

Had the accused fronted up and apologised it would all have blown over by now.

Instead of which he’s become famous for not being well known, ensured his case gets on-gong going publicity and given further impetus to the need for changes to the law on name suppression.


Where’s Whaleoil?

January 11, 2010

A TV3 news story says Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater is mocking another suppresion order.

Clicking on both Whaleoil and Gotcha led to an error message.

Is that just a conincidence?


Victim impact report censored

November 14, 2009

Gil Elliot, the father of Sophie who was murdered by Clayton Weatherston, wants changes to the law to allow greater freedom of expression for people giving victim impact statements.

The statement he delivered to the court before Clayotn Weatherston was sentenced was heavily censored and he is justifiably angry about that.

There is something wrong with a justice system which allows an accused person to besmirch his victim’s reputation but censors her father’s victim impact statement.


Courting trouble

October 13, 2009

Bloggers beware: the Crown Law Office is reviewing internet publication after recent cases raised questions over contempt of court and suppression order breaches.

It’s nearly 30 years since I studied media law at journalism school. We weren’t using computers and had never heard of the internet so what we learned applied to print and broadcast media.

But I’ve always blogged on the theory that the laws which applied then still apply now whether they’re published in old media or new.

Comment which might influence a case before it’s concluded, publishing information that’s been suppressed or indentifying – explicitly or not – someone who has name suppression are all courting trouble.

Contempt of court has always been a serious charge and I don’t think the medium in which the offending comments were published would make a difference.


Stadium gets tick, opponents get bill

August 25, 2009

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against the Dunedin City Council’s funding of the Forsyth Barr Stadium. Stop the Stadium which brought the action will have to pay up to $17,000 for costs.

That’s how it should be.

Ratepayers will have spent a lot more on the council’s defence of the action and if the opponents didn’t pay court costs the taxpayer would have to.


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